Even as the territory observes 16 days of activism to oppose gender-based violence, news of domestic abuse keeps hitting the headlines.
Often, the details are horrendous, with recent alleged victims including a pregnant woman who received a severe beating.
The territory must do better.
During this month’s observance, we hope the whole community will get involved in stopping such incidents.
To that end, the Virgin Islands must ask itself why domestic violence continues to be such a scourge here in the territory.
One major reason is the silence that tends to surround it: Too often, the problem has been exacerbated because the community turns a blind eye, as though violence is a private family matter.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Domestic violence affects everyone, and everyone has a role to play in putting a stop to it.
To that end, significant progress has been made in recent decades.
The non-profit Family Support Network has advocated tirelessly on behalf of domestic abuse victims, and the government’s Office of Gender Affairs has done similar work in the public sector.
Thanks in part to such efforts, the territory passed the Domestic Violence Act in 2011, and Domestic Violence and Child Abuse protocols followed in 2014.
These were major steps in the right direction.
Both agencies have also helped to educate the community about domestic violence, and awareness has steadily increased over the years.
More and more, people are beginning to understand facts about such violence, including its cyclical nature and the ways that victims are manipulated and controlled.
However, domestic violence persists, and it is often exacerbated by hard times that bring stress. Probably for this reason, police have reported increases after Hurricane Irma and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was discouraging indeed to hear Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone say last week that 86 cases of domestic violence were reported in the territory this year up to July. Most of them were against women, but it is important to note that men can be abused as well.
The territory must do better. And that will require teamwork at all levels of this society.